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Takeaways: UConn football loses to Fresno State

What have we learned after the Huskies’ first live game in nearly two years?

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Fresno State Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

UConn football did not look very good in its season opener at Fresno State, losing 45-0. While a big loss was the most likely outcome for this game going in, it would have been nice for the Huskies to get on the board, or at least look a little better.

Though it is not a time to panic, after one game it’s clear some of the concerns going into the season are warranted: the inexperience on the offense, especially at QB, is showing and on defense the secondary has flaws even though the front seven might be slightly improved.

The defense showed signs, but this will happen against better competition

Aman Kidwai: The defense held strong through the first quarter before the dam broke. At first, the tackling looked alright but then things fell apart on that front as well. Edsall noted that two key starters on the defensive line Eric Watts and Kevon Jones did not make the trip with the team, so the return of those two, likely next week, will be a big boost for this unit.

Giving up 45 points is not going to make anyone forget the awful memories of those 2018 or 2019 teams, but the front seven does look stronger and at the very least has some playmaking ability. Fresno State may be one of the best offenses on the schedule, hopefully the UConn defense can do better against Holy Cross to get on a better track before the meat of the schedule.

Jack Zergiotis is the starter at QB

Aman Kidwai: We weren’t sure who the starter would be going into the season or what kind of split under center might exist, but with Jack Zergiotis playing every drive until the 4th quarter, it’s clear he’s the top guy for the coaching staff. In the post-game press conference, Edsall announced that Zergiotis will be the starter against Holy Cross.

Dan Madigan: Swaggy Z was underwhelming to say the least in his sophomore season debut. His 12 completions went for just 61 yards, and when the Huskies did try to stretch the field, he overthrew his receiver on multiple occasions. There’s talent there, according to the coaches and announcers, and it will likely take some time for him to settle in, but it was not the best start to Zergiotis’ second season, and the lack of downfield passing attempts was concerning for a QB that boasts arm strength as a major attribute.

The offense needs a lot of work

Madigan: Between Cam Ross, Kevin Mensah, and Heron Maurriseau, who made some tough catches in the first half, there’s definitely some talent at the skill positions on this year’s team. Zergiotis didn’t necessarily impress, and given the long break and inexperience at receiver, it’s going to take some time for this crew. But even if Zergiotis hit some open receivers or the line opened up better holes, I’m not totally sure this team is capable of scoring four or five touchdowns against FBS opponents. Some of that is the talent level of this team, but I think a big part of it is the play calling and decision making from offensive coordinator Frank Giufre — it’s a slow, archaic offense that often fails to put the ball in its best players’ hands in creative ways. If UConn can’t maximize the production of their best skill players, this offense is in trouble and will be all season, even if Zergiotis or Krajewski improves as a passer.

Temper your expectations

Madigan: It’s going to be really hard to get an accurate read on this team for a while — Fresno State was clearly a much better team, and Holy Cross is probably slightly worse. Not to mention, the 600+ days of rust to shake off. Not scoring a touchdown really sucked, but this offense should be able to at least move the ball a bit more than we’ve seen in past seasons. That’s not great, but it’s a step in the right direction. I still think this team will be better than what we’ve seen in 2018 and 2019, but four wins is still probably the absolute ceiling for this team.

Aman: Anyone with optimistic visions for this year’s team should cease immediately. Fresno State is good but they are probably going to end up a middle-of-the-road (70th or so) rated team in FBS. Given where this UConn team is, to even say that it should beat its FCS opponents Holy Cross and Yale is a stretch, even though the Huskies will have a size advantage. Those aren’t automatic wins, and should not be treated as such.

Was it too hot outside?

Madigan: I will never understand why this game was played during the hottest part of the day in California, where on-field temps surpassed 120 degrees at kickoff. Fresno State was so concerned about the heat melting players’ cleats (!!!) that they had extra stored in a cooler location in the stadium. The temperature didn’t cause UConn to lose Saturday, but it certainly didn’t help — combine that with the rust of 600+ days without a game and cross country road trip and it’s easy to see why things went south quick after a genuinely decent first quarter.

Aman: I would assume that if the people running college football actually cared about the health and safety of the players, they would not play when the temperature is getting that much over 100 degrees and players are routinely cramping and getting dehydrated. Seems bad. As Madigan said, it’s not the reason UConn lost or anything, but what the hell?